The Chokwe people are an ethnic group that primarily resides in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as in Angola and Zambia. With a rich and diverse cultural heritage, the Chokwe are well-known for their unique beliefs, mythology, and rituals.

Beliefs and Religion

The Chokwe belief system is primarily centered around a supreme being named Nzambi Mpungu, who is considered the creator of the universe and all living beings. This monotheistic belief system also recognizes a variety of lesser deities and spirits, each with their own specific role and influence on the lives of the Chokwe people.

Deities and Their Personalities

  • Nzambi Mpungu: The supreme being, Nzambi Mpungu is the creator of the universe and everything within it. This deity is considered omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, although somewhat distant from daily human affairs. Nzambi Mpungu is often invoked during significant life events and rituals.

  • Kalunga: Kalunga is the god of the sea, and he is closely associated with water, fertility, and life. He is believed to reside in the ocean depths and is revered for his power to grant bountiful harvests and protect against natural disasters. Offerings are often made to Kalunga to ensure his continued blessings.

  • Cihongo: Cihongo is a male spirit who represents wealth, prosperity, and well-being. He is often depicted as a strong, robust figure adorned with regalia indicating his status. Cihongo is particularly revered among Chokwe chiefs and leaders, who look to him for guidance and support in governing their people.

  • Pwo: Pwo is the female counterpart to Cihongo and embodies the ideal woman, symbolizing beauty, fertility, and grace. She is a vital spirit in Chokwe culture and is venerated by both men and women. Pwo is often depicted in Chokwe artwork and is invoked during ceremonies related to fertility and childbirth.

Mythology and Stories

Chokwe mythology features a diverse array of stories that serve to illustrate the personalities and roles of their deities, as well as impart moral lessons and cultural values. One such story is the creation myth, in which Nzambi Mpungu creates the universe and all its inhabitants. In this tale, Nzambi Mpungu fashions the earth from clay and breathes life into various animals and plants before creating the first humans. This story emphasizes the importance of living in harmony with nature, as well as the interconnectedness of all living beings.

Another popular Chokwe myth involves Kalunga, the god of the sea. In this story, Kalunga is angered by the hubris of the Chokwe people, who have neglected their traditional ways and have become arrogant. As a result, he sends a great flood to punish them, sparing only those who have remained true to their beliefs. The myth teaches the importance of humility and respecting the power of nature.


Rituals are an integral aspect of Chokwe culture, serving to reinforce social bonds and ensure the continued favor of the deities. Some of the most significant rituals include initiation ceremonies for both boys and girls, as well as funerary rites.

The Mukanda is a male initiation ceremony that marks the transition from boyhood to manhood. During this rite, young boys are separated from their families and undergo a period of seclusion, during which they learn the skills, knowledge, and responsibilities required of Chokwe men. The boys are also taught about the deities, particularly Cihongo, as well as the importance of respecting the spirits and adhering to the traditional Chokwe way of life. Upon completion of the Mukanda, the boys return to their communities as fully initiated men.

Similarly, the Chokwe girls undergo a female initiation ceremony called the Mwana Pwo. This ritual marks their transition into womanhood and prepares them for their future roles as wives and mothers. The girls are taught about Pwo, the ideal woman, and are instructed in the arts of dancing, singing, and cooking. The Mwana Pwo ceremony is a vital component of Chokwe culture, as it ensures the continuation of their traditions and beliefs.

Funerary rites are another important aspect of Chokwe rituals. When a person dies, it is believed that their spirit must make a journey to the afterlife, guided by their ancestors. To facilitate this journey, the Chokwe perform elaborate funerary rites, which may include offerings of food, drink, and valuable items to the deceased. Additionally, the community comes together to mourn, sing, and dance, in order to celebrate the life of the departed and ensure their safe passage to the ancestral realm.

Unique Beliefs

One unique belief held by the Chokwe people is the concept of "Cishimba," which refers to the life force that animates all living beings. This life force is believed to be a gift from Nzambi Mpungu and is thought to connect all living things in a vast, interconnected web. The Chokwe believe that by living in harmony with nature and respecting the spirits, they can maintain a balance in the flow of Cishimba and ensure the well-being of both their community and the natural world.